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Pandemic 'severely ruptured' social skills of world's poorest children: study

Pandemic severely ruptured social skills of worlds poorest children: study

New Delhi: According to two interlinked studies conducted by academics from the University of Cambridge, UK and Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia involving 8,000 primary pupils, the Covid-19 pandemic has "severely ruptured" the social and emotional development of some of the world's poorest children, as well as their academic progress.

The studies published in the journal Longitudinal and Life Course Studies states that, children who, prior to the pandemic, felt confident talking to others or got on well with peers were less likely to do so by 2021.

Those who were already disadvantaged educationally, i.e. girls, the very poorest, and those from rural areas, seem to have been particularly badly affected.

One of the studies, which is conducted over 2,000 primary school pupils in Ethiopia, suggests that key aspects of children's social and emotional development, such as their ability to make friends, not only stalled during the school closures, but probably deteriorated.

The second, linked study of around 6,000 grade 1 and 4 primary school children, also found evidence of slowed academic progress.

Children lost the equivalent of at least one third of an academic year in learning during lockdown an estimate researchers describe as "conservative".

This appears to have widened an already significant attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and the rest, and there is some evidence that this may be linked to the drop in social skills.

"Covid is having a long-term impact on children everywhere, but especially in lower-income countries. Education aid and government funding must focus on supporting both the academic and socio-emotional recovery of the most disadvantaged children first," said Professor Pauline Rose, Director of the Research in Equitable Access and Learning (REAL) Centre at University of Cambridge.

The most striking evidence of a rupture in socio-emotional development was the lack of a predictive association between the 2019 and 2021 results. Pupils who felt confident talking to others before the pandemic, for example, had often changed their minds two years later.

"These severe ruptures to children's developmental and learning trajectories underline how much we need to think about the impact on social, and not just academic skills. Catch-up education must address the two together," added Professor Tassew Woldehanna, President of Addis Ababa University.

Researchers suggest that the negative impact on social and emotional development may be linked to the slowdown in academic attainment.

- IANS Inputs

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TAGS:#EducationLockdownCovid Pandemiccovid -19poor children
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